Saturday, January 4, 2014

Civil Liberties for Urban Believers v. City of Chicago case brief

Civil Liberties for Urban Believers v. City of Chicago case brief summary
342 F.3d 752 (2003)

Appellant associated churches sought review of an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division that granted summary judgment in favor of appellee city on the churches' claims that 17 Chicago, Ill. Code §§ 1-11, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000cc et seq., and the due process, equal protection, and free exercise of religion clauses.

The churches claimed that the zoning ordinance and legislative processes for obtaining zoning approvals violated their rights to free exercise of religion, speech, and assembly under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, procedural due process, and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Illinois Constitution, in addition to the RLUIPA claim. The district court held that any potential substantial burden that the zoning ordinance placed on free exercise had had been remedied when the ordinance was amended to place churches on an equal footing with nonreligious assembly uses.


  • The majority of the court of appeals panel noted that each of the five individual plaintiff churches had successfully located within the city limits, and the fact that they were required to expend considerable time and money to do so did not entitle them to relief under the RLUIPA substantial burden provision of 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000cc(a). 
  • The court declined to apply strict scrutiny review of the equal protection claim. 
  • The zoning ordinance burdened religious exercise only as regulation of a newspaper publisher's location impinged on rights of free speech.

The decision of the district court was affirmed.

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